Hawaii Schools to Close on Most Fridays

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Students in Hawaii who have dreamt of longer weekends and shorter school weeks just got their wishes granted. As a way to trim the state’s ballooning education budget, a new teachers’ union contract chops 17 Fridays off the remaining academic calendar for the state’s 171,000 public school students, the Associated Press reports. The President’s home state will now have  just 163 instructional days, while most states have 180.

The decision in favor of money saved, teacher layoffs prevented, and learning time lost comes as Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are calling for students across the country to spend more time in the classroom. The President said recently that he wants students to stay late or come in on weekends because “the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom.” Meanwhile, Hawaii already ranks near the bottom of the national education achievement barrell in terms of its test scores.

More than 80 percent of Hawaii’s voting teachers approved the new contract and its 17 furlough Fridays, but the decision has many parents and education advocates up in arms. Some working parents are scrambling to find day care, while parents of special-needs students are threatening to sue the state. “It’s just not enough time for kids to learn,” Valerie Sonoda, president of the Hawaii State Parent Teacher Student Association told the Associated Press. “I’m getting hundreds of calls and e-mails. They all have the same underlying concern, and that is the educational hours of the kids.”

Hawaii is not alone in its teaching budget cuts. California, Florida, and New Mexico have also asked teachers to take unpaid furlough days, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. But few if any furlough days in other states fall on dates that would otherwise have been used for classroom instruction. 

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Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

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Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

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